FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Looking to build off an amazing 2014 Championship run, the Northern Arizona women's soccer team has signed 11 players in the class of 2015 to an already deep and talented roster.
"We are excited about this class because it is a balanced class in terms of positions with goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We feel that this class will help us on the long-term aspects of our program."
The 11 future Lumberjacks come from six different states (Alaska, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah) including three Big Sky Conference states. NAU recruited the state of California hard, signing four players, Mei-Te Coco, Lauren Cooper, Carly Gamble and Samantha Vankoll, tied for the most recruits in NAU Soccer history to come from California.
"We have some strong seniors on our team this year and after their departure we will have to replace some big shoes and I feel that these players can step in and maintain or even elevate our program in the future," said Luciano.
The Lumberjacks lost six seniors in 2014 and three All-Big Sky Conference selections and one All-Big Sky Tournament selection. The list will grow in 2015 as NAU's senior class will be very deep and tough to replace in 2016 with eight starters, five 2014 All-Big Sky Conference selections and five 2014 All-Big Sky Tournament selections.
"We didn't want to go into 2016 loaded with freshmen," said Luciano. "One of the things we wanted to do is focus on bringing in a class that would get some experience during the 2015 season and would have to rely on replacing possibly 11 seniors."
The Alaskan Pipeline continues to pay dividends for Northern Arizona soccer as one Alaskan leaves in senior Sarah Tarver and stepping in is Haleigh Van Allen.
"That is something special we have always had at NAU even before I was here," said assistant coach Carolyn Savage who is from Anchorage, Ala. and played at NAU. "We have created that pipeline and I think it proves that there are good players everywhere. It is nice to go back home and recruit and have that connection."
Luciano preaches the NAU Soccer motto "Jacks4Life" symbolizing family and next season it will truly be a family affair as the 'Jacks will have two pairs of sisters on the team. Carly Gamble will join her sister, Cierra, in Flagstaff and Alexia Gonzalez will welcome her younger sister, Ari to town.
The Bishop Gorman High School connection continues to pay off for the Lumberjacks as Jordan Mercado joins her fellow Gael Haley Wingender. The Lumberjacks were able to sign a student-athlete from New Mexico for the first time since 2008 (Ethi Ethridge) signing Maddie Waszak from Albuquerque. Instead of staying home and attending Weber State, Bree Stoddard decided to leave Ogden, Utah for Flagstaff joining three current players from Utah.
As always, Luciano and his staff were able to find some of the best talent in the state of Arizona in Alexis Moest from Cave Creek and Vicki Cooper from Oro Valley.
"This class will be a big impact for our program," said Savage. "They will be able to contribute initially and I feel they will be able to mesh really well with the girls we already have."